NHL Playoffs 2012: Breaking Down the Los Angeles Kings vs. the Phoenix Coyotes
After the first two rounds of the playoffs, the two best of the Western Conference are finally set to fight for the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes are both from the Pacific Division, and it's the first time that's happened in the conference finals.
Let's start with the teams' paths to the Western Conference Finals first.
The Kings only needed nine games to get this far. And to put things in perspective, the Kings had to battle the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues, the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively.
The Kings also had the 29th-ranked offense in the league during the regular season, so kudos to goaltender Jonathan Quick for getting the Kings this far. Their offense has come alive though in the postseason, having scored 27 goals at an average of three goals per game.
The Coyotes banished some tough opponents in the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators so they're no pushover either.
However, Phoenix hasn't had the easiest time getting this far, having gone to overtime six times in 11 postseason games. Either that's generous luck or a lot of skill to score timely goals.
The goalie matchup is the Kings' Jonathan Quick against the Coyotes' Mike Smith, and the stats thus far are nearly identical.
They each have eight wins, obviously. Quick has a 94.9 save percentage in the postseason, which is outstanding. Smith's is only a speck lower at 94.8 percent.
Quick has the better goals against average of 1.55 opposed to Smith's also amazing 1.77. But Smith has two shutouts, one more than Quick.
Who will win the series?
It's hard to give an edge to either team's goaltending. But if I had to, I'd say the Kings have a very slight edge in that department.
The Coyotes scored 29 goals so far in the playoffs, so the offensive split is nearly identical, although the Kings have played two fewer games.
The Kings have arguably faced the better goaltending, getting a matchup of Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, then St. Louis' Brian Elliott. The Coyotes have played Chicago's Corey Crawford and Nashville's Pekka Rinne.
As far as players on the team go, the Kings have skilled veterans such as Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
The Coyotes also have some great offensive skill by the names of Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Antoine Vermette and Ray Whitney.
But edges and skill aren't everything, as evidenced by the upsets the Kings and Coyotes have pulled to get to this point.
What's every good preview without a prediction? I believe the Kings will win in six, because beating the top two seeds is very significant.
They've been on a tear the whole postseason while the Coyotes have scraped some wins off the pavement.
The Coyotes showed they are no laughing matter though.
They'll be behind Doan the whole ride, and are honestly one of the most heart and soul teams I've seen in awhile. They show they can get the job done, one way or another.
Whoever wins, it should not be a disappointing series in the slightest, and it will live up to the expectations of all NHL fans.
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